Tag Archives: donor unknown

One Donor, How Many Siblings?

My hubby sent me an article, One Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring in today’s New York Times (thanks Mike!). It highlights a problem I worried about when I became an egg donor twelve years ago and when we chose to use a sperm donor eight years ago. When I became I donor, I stipulated that I donate only to people from out-of-town. I didn’t want to see my offspring in the grocery store or worry about them going to the same high school with my children. As a result, I only donated to families from Canada and other counties in the state.

We chose our sperm donor from a bank in California. At the time, the clinic only noted that at least one child had been born by our donor, not how many. But I saw it as a positive, demonstrating the sperm’s efficacy. I assumed the sperm would be sold to a few locations throughout the country, making the odds that my children would bump into one of their few half-siblings statistically unlikely. But ten years ago, I didn’t realize that sperm could be frozen indefinitely, that more and more people would take advantage of the advancing fertility technology, and I trusted that the sperm bank would use good sense and limit the number of offspring produced by any one donor. But reporting of births by parents is voluntary and as this article points out, this area of the fertility industry is not well-regulated.

My boys already have half-siblings that we know about: twin girls born from my donated eggs, Ruby and Raven, who live two counties away and our unique relationship has formed the basis of my memoir. The boys also have a non-biological half-brother born in my husband’s previous marriage. But what about the unknown half-siblings born from their sperm donor?  What if the sperm donor had children of his own? Is it important that we know of their existence? Their geography, sex, and age?

When I asked these questions of our sperm bank, they directed me to their sibling registry. We’re listed there, but as of this writing no other siblings appear there for our donor. A search of the Donor Sibling Registry shows no other siblings by our sperm donor either, but the site has an annual fee of $75, so it’s still quite possible that my children have many other half siblings across the country.

Will my children yearn to meet their unknown half-siblings and donor someday, a situation happening all over the country and chronicled in the forthcoming documentary about which I blogged, Donor Unknown? If they do, I hope that we’ll handle the situation with the grace and understanding that our children deserve. But let’s face it, we’ll probably make some mistakes, because we’re human, and we’re slogging into uncharted waters.

The article also mentions the modern sex education a parent must share with their teenagers born from donor sperm. The teen must know and remember their donor number,  and they must assess the birth status of each of their future partners. I think we all remember those awkward junior high/high school conversations leading up to a first kiss. Can you imagine the dialogue a teenager born from donor sperm must have in this modern day?

“So…umm, well…so your parents…umm, when you were born…umm,…so, there’s, like, no chance you were born from donor sperm is there??”

With this extra monkey on their backs, my boys won’t have their first kiss until they’re 25! Maybe that’s a good thing for my blood pressure, but seriously, I want them to be happy, and although the odds still seem in their favor, who knows what the climate will be like in the next ten, twenty, thirty years when they’re searching for a companion? Nowadays, and in the future, the geography that I thought would protect them has been made insignificant by the age of computers and technology. Most of my single friends use web-based dating sites. Will these sites incorporate a check box for “conceived from donor sperm or eggs” as a screening option or conversation starter? Will it be part of their dating profile? Probably someday. It’s only a matter of when.

I’m trying not to worry too much about this dilemma, for their sanity, and mine. My hope is that we, as their parents, will have educated our boys enough, and raised them with enough confidence and openness to approach these new dating experiences with only the usual amount of awkwardness. It will be tough no matter how we prepare them, but hopefully, being born from donor sperm won’t be the factor that keeps them from finding and feeling the love, security, and contentment that we all seek, and that they definitely deserve.

Do you think the number of offspring from each donor (sperm and/or eggs) should be tracked? Regulated? Or should we just print the donor number on our Facebook info page so we can avoid those potentially awkward moments?

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Are the Brit’s Ahead of Us?

We don’t see it in the news here, but the UK seems progressive and organized when it comes to their egg and sperm donors.

BioNews reported last week that Natalie Drew and Ashling Phillips, a lesbian couple who have two children by a sperm donor, set up The Gay Family Web Fertility Centre  in Birmingham, England. The clinic is designed to help gay and lesbian people build their family. They were motivated by their experience conceiving their children at a clinic that catered primarily to heterosexuals. British law dictates however that they cannot turn away heterosexual couples.

In addition, a new documentary film, traveling around European indie film festivals, Donor Unknown, is  making headlines. Cameras follow 20-year old JoEllen Marsh as she searches for the sperm donor father she only knows as Donor 150.

Through an online registry that connects donor-conceived children, she manages to track down a half-sister in New York. The New York Times picks up the story, and, over time, 12 more half-siblings emerge across the USA.

Donor Unknown follows JoEllen from her discovery of her siblings, to the moment Jeffrey steps forward to identify himself as Donor 150, to her decision to travel to California to meet him. We also meet the half-siblings spread across the U.S. Danielle in New York, who was not told by her parents that she was donor-conceived till the age of 14, is uncertain of the kind of relationship she could ever sustain with Jeffrey. His decision to let go of anonymity is a step few donors have taken.

This story is fascinating and the closest I’ve seen to my own. From the film web site:

“Linked by their connection to a single sperm donor – 150 – parents and children are creating and navigating a new set of relationships. They are discovering first hand what a close biological connection to a stranger means for themselves and their identity.  What happens next opens up some fascinating questions about nature and nurture, the responsibilities of parenthood, the moral integrity of the cryobanks, and the hazards of genetic inheritance. As the laws on donor anonymity change in some countries, there are fewer sperm donors and there’s a roaring trade in ‘fertility tourism’, for overseas sperm and egg donation….Now they’re living with the unpredictable consequences of their choice. What impact will meeting this stranger – Donor 150 – have on their children? What kinds of relationship can the children build with their biological father? How will letting Donor 150 into their lives affect their relationships as a family? And how will meeting his biological children change Jeffrey’s life?”

So why isn’t this film showing here across the U.S.? Right now its screening in New York, London, and Poland. I’m excited to see it. I’ll be contacting my local indie film theater, The Pickford Film Center, to see if they can get their hands on it. Send a message to YOUR local indie film theater letting them know you’d like to see it as well. This type of story needs to be seen.